Application Process

What should be age when I apply?

Currently, the minimum train driver age is 20 years. 

Where do I apply?

Apply via your local operator’s website. Find who runs trains near you.

Can I have more than one application active at once?

You can apply to join each Train Operating Company separately. Certain operators may only allow you to apply for one location at once.

What qualifications do I need to become a Train Driver?

GCSE in English and Maths. If you don’t have GCSEs in English and Maths, you’ll usually be required to take a basic numeracy and literacy test. If you do not have the required GCSEs to enrol on to a Train Driver Level 3 apprenticeship you’ll need to take a Functional or Key Skills qualification at either Level 1 or Level 2 as a part of your apprenticeship.

English is not my first language, can I still apply?

Yes, you can!

Can I work part time hours?

Some train operators employ part time drivers. You will need to check when you apply to find out the train operators working patterns.

General Training Process

Will I be paid during my training?

Yes – you’ll be employed as a Trainee Driver at your chosen operator. Training salaries vary between £19,000 and £28,000 a year.

How long does the training take?

Training generally takes 9 to 18 months, depending on which Train Operating Company employs you.

Do I have to work shifts during my training?

Your initial classroom-based training will primarily be during office hours, although you may be required to stay away from home for prolonged periods.

When you’re learning practical skills on depots or with experienced Drivers, you’ll be expected to work in morning or night shifts.

English is not my first language, can I still apply?

Yes, you can!

What if I don’t pass my training?

Employers want their Trainee Drivers to succeed and will provide all the support they can to help trainees successfully pass their assessment. The Drivers role is a safety critical therefore only trainees who prove themselves competent can qualify as Drivers.
If you’re deemed as unsuitable, an employer may have no option but to terminate your employment or offer you an alternative position.

I have difficulties reading and/or writing. Will I make it through the training?

Drivers need strong written and verbal communication skills in order to do the job safely and professionally. Employers can make adjustments to assist you in your training. You should make any prospective employer aware of this at the application stage.

Level 3 Apprenticeship Process

What will a Train Driver apprentice be able to do at the end of the apprenticeship?

What will a Train Driver apprentice be able to do at the end of the apprenticeship? The apprentices will be trained in many areas of driving and maintaining the trains and rail network. They will be able to drive a train competently and safely, how to work in a range of railway areas, such as depots, sidings or maintenance sheds. They will deal with moving passengers, goods, and empty coaches. Some may also perform maintenance work involving machines that are driven on the tracks.

Is there a good chance of progression for these apprentices? Where could this apprenticeship lead to?

This apprenticeship is a great way to get in to many different areas of work in the rail industry. Many of the skills taught are transferable. Depending on the type of company, a train driver apprenticeship could lead to senior management in an operational role, or to a career training others how to drive trains.

How does this apprenticeship improve on the general training?

Train drivers today need to be able to react and make decisions unsupervised. They must be able to make judgements and know the risks when unexpected emergency situations arise. We’ve ensured that the new apprenticeship delivers on all these skills.

Does the apprenticeship involve people skills?

Yes, apprentices will learn how to recognise both company internal and external customers, focusing on the manner in which the message is delivered. They will know how to redirect customer enquiries to the appropriate personnel, when they are unable to deal with them themselves.

Will they be working with one railway environment and type of train, or will it range?

Will they be working with one railway environment and type of train, or will it range? The type of train they will be taught to drive will depend on who they work for, because train types differ between companies. They will also be able to work in many different areas such as on high-speed trains, passenger trains, freight trains or on the London Underground.

Are they involved with the business side of things?

Yes, throughout the apprenticeship they will have developed some strong commercial awareness such as, franchising arrangements and business goals. They will also know how to drive a train in a way that will keep fuel and maintenance costs down and minimise financial penalties.

What about health and safety?

Apprentice Train Drivers will know how to maintain a safe and secure environment, on a constant basis. They will also know how, and when, to challenge unsafe safety practices. They will be able to give clear and accurate verbal communications and will understand how to make instant decisions during incidents and unexpected emergency situations.

Shift Work

What is shift work?

As a train driver, you will be required to book on to work, at any time during the 24 hour day, such as early mornings,  evenings and at night, as well as weekends. These are known as ‘shifts.’ They may also be known as ‘turns’ or ‘duties’; for example, you could hear of a driver having a 9-hour shift, a 9 hour turn or being on duty for 10 hours.

What does this mean to you?

It is important to consider the impact of shift working on yourself, your family and your personal life, as you will not be working the same 9 to 5 as you may be used to. 

Many people prefer this style of working as it offers greater flexibility. You could commute during less busier times, and do more personal activities depending on your shifts. 

How many hours in a week do train drivers work for?

Most operating companies offer a 4 day (35 hour) working week for train drivers.

How many hours in a day do train drivers work for?

Daily shifts are between 5 -11 hours dependent on the operating company arrangements,  known as diagrams.

How are the rosters created or scheduled?

The roster clerk or ‘Local Management team’ will design the rosters which will include the diagrams and spare turns to cover leave, absenteeism and other training type activities. It is likely that your shifts will be spread over seven days and will include working at weekends and bank holidays.